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Winner of the Governor General's Gold Medal Award - Dr. Yifeng Li

Published on: Thu, 10/02/2014
Last Modified: Thu, 10/02/2014 - 12:57pm

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Dr. Yifeng Li, School of Computer Science – 2014 Governor General’s Gold Medal Recipient

In 2013, under the supervision of Drs. Alioune Ngom and Luis Rueda, Dr. Li defended his doctoral dissertation, Sparse machine learning models in bioinformatics.  Described by his supervisor as having impressive skills in mathematics and statistics, he also has the advantageous characteristic of remaining highly confident and optimistic when he meets difficulties in both research and life.  This is very important for a scientist.  He is industrious and assimilates difficult new concepts quickly.

Dr. Li has been the recipient of the Ontario Graduate Scholarship in 2011 and 2012.  He was also one of three international winners of the IEEE Walter Karplus Summer Research Grant in 2010.  Dr. Li has published 5 Journal papers (plus one under revision) in machine learning and bioinformatics journals (BMC Systems Biology, IEEE Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Neurocomputing), and over 20 refereed conference papers in IEEE BIBM (acceptance rate 19.93%), IEEE ICDM(acceptance rate 19.97%), and more.

The research of Dr. Li focused on devising large-scale sparse machine learning models for various bioinformatics problems. He contributed to methods including sparse representations, sparse tensor factorization, sparsely regularized linear models, spectral clustering, and high-order dynamic Bayesian networks. These sparse models help to better interpret results in analysis of big biological data.  His Non-Negative Matrix Factorization Toolbox ( and Sparse Representation Toolbox ( are popularly used in the machine learning and bioinformatics community.

Dr. Li is grateful for the support of his supervisors who made it possible for Dr. Li to attend many international conferences where he received beneficial feedback on this thesis and actively interacted with some top researchers. 

As a postdoctoral fellow in the Wasserman Lab, Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, University of British Columbia, Dr. Li is currently working on cis-regulatory element identification in huge non-coding regions of human genome using machine learning models.  He is also the Local Arrangements Chair of the IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence (IEEE WCCI) to be held in Vancouver 2016, which is the largest international technical event in the field of computational intelligence.